It is no secret, that we love the outdoors. We love camping, hiking, backpacking, pretty much anything to do with the outdoors. When we hike, there is a list of 10 hiking essentials then we always carry with us on every hike. Below is a list of the items we always carry with us and the reasons why.
1. Water. Camp Gear Center’s world headquarters are tucked into the mountains of Northern Arizona. Even though we are in the mountains it is still pretty much a desert climate. Water is the most important thing we bring with us on every single hike. The amount of water you carry is dependent on how much you drink, and how much you sweat. We like to carry at least 32 oz of water sometimes 64oz depending on the time of year, the length of the hike, and who we are hiking with. There have been times where people hiking with us are not quite as prepared and run out of water and it is always nice to be able to help them out. We also recommend a shatterproof bottle such as a Nalgene or equivalent so if you happen to drop your water bottle it doesn’t break and you lose your water. It sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised just how uncommon common sense is.
2. First aid kit. As a scoutmaster, I like to live by the Boy Scout motto of be prepared. Although I haven’t had need to use my first aid kit, knowing that I have one and that if there was an emergency, I could either help or have somebody help me with my first aid kit. Besides being prepared, there was one incident that led me to always throw my first aid kit in my backpack. I was out hiking and there was a older couple that was coming towards me on the trail, and the gentleman had his hand in the air as if he were asking a question. I noticed he had blood running down his hand and his arm. He turned out to be okay, but had I had my first aid kit I could have helped bandage him up and help stop the bleeding. It turns out he was poked by one of the yucca plants which are quite common in Arizona that have “leaves” that are literally needle sharp. Ever since that incident, we always carry a first aid kit. This is the kit we carry. (click link)
3. GPS. For Christmas last year, my wife got me the Garmin etrex 20x GPS unit. I absolutely love this little thing it has a decent size screen that can show you the trails and when you start your hike it actually keeps track of the trail you Heights. There have been many times where I got off the trail, and I pulled out the GPS to find out where the trail was and how I can navigate back to it. I will put a link to the video I made on why I love this little GPS unit here. That way you can check out the video and not have to read all about why I love my GPS.
4. Survival blanket. We are a scouting family, and the Scout motto is being prepared. A survival blanket for us is a necessary item to carry for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is if you get stranded someplace and need to stay warm, a survival blanket which is usually a reflective material, will help reflect up to 90% of your body heat back to you and keep you warm. Another good use, is if you are in a warmer climate comma and you get stranded the survival blanket can be strung up to create much-needed shade. Survival blankets do not weigh very much and they compress down fairly small so they are not that cumbersome to keep in your pack. We have yet to need to use this, but it is reassuring knowing that it is there.
5. Signal mirror. Another small, lightweight useful item is a signal mirror. It is fairly obvious what this is used for. If you get stranded someplace and need to signal for help a signal mirror will do the task. A fun fact, a computer hard drive usually has up to 4 very reflective discs inside and can be used for a signal mirror. That is what we carry with us. They are super reflective and conveniently have a hole in the middle so you can aim where you want the signal to go. Again, this is another item that we have not used while hiking but it is good to know that it is there should we need it.
6. Multi tool. A good multi-tool is essential to carry with you for numerous reasons. The one we carry, is the Leatherman skeletool. Which has a knife, pliers, bottle opener, and a number of screwdrivers. We have never had the need to turn a screw while out hiking comma but the knife, pliers, and of course the bottle opener have all been used. You will probably want to pick the right multi-tool for you based on the various things that they have. We just happen to have one of these skeletools and throw it in the pack.
7. Snacks. We always throw in a handful of our favorite cliff bars or trail mix packs when we are hiking. Depending on the length of the hike, you may want to carry more food than just some granola bars and trail mix, but for short hikes that’s usually what we carry. You never know when you need the extra boost of energy to help get up that mountain, or back to base camp. Also, if you do happen to get stranded and need to use your reflective blanket and or signal mirror, you are able to eat something to help sustain you while waiting for help to arrive.
8. Fire starter. Again, something we have not had to use while we are hiking, but always carry just in case we get stranded. While a signal mirror is a good signaling device to use, a small fire putting out a lot of smoke can work even better. If you happen to get stranded on a cloudy day a signal mirror won’t do much good, but a fire can be seen even on the cloudiest days. It is important to stress fire safety when building a signal fire, or even just a fire to keep yourself warm if you get stranded. Make sure that you clear the area around the fire as not to set things on fire that you don’t intend to burn. We typically carry a small metal tin that contains a flint and steel and cotton balls to start a fire as well as a lighter. Sometimes, the lighter either doesn’t have butane in it or decides it doesn’t want to work so we have the flint and steel with cotton balls as a backup which works really well.
9. Rain poncho. Since we are based in northern Arizona comma the weather can change pretty quickly. Especially during the summer time. It could be sunny in the morning and raining buckets in the afternoon. We always carry a rain poncho with us in our pack. Like the emergency blanket, a inexpensive rain poncho is lightweight, folds up small, and is barely even noticeable in your pack. If the weather does happen to change quickly, we are prepared for it by having our Poncho with us. This is one of the items that we have used on occasion. And been very thankful that we had it. No need to spend a lot of money on a rain poncho you can pick them up in most stores for less than a dollar and trying to refold them while somewhat cumbersome, it can be done but these are usually a one-time use item.
10. Backpack. so we’ve got all these essential items that we carry with us on our hikes, but how do we carry it? We use a smallish tactical style backpack that has four separate Pockets or compartments to hold our gear. Any backpack will do, we happen to like this particular pack because of some of the additional features that it has. It has the Molle connectors so you can attach things to the outside of the pack, it has the room inside in the ability to put a hydration bladder in, the straps are fairly well padded and quite a adjustable. It does come with a waist strap which we don’t use as a waist wrap, but we do have it rolled up inside. They come in many colors and additional sizes, but this one seems to work the best for us to carry our essential gear. It also has a larger storage compartment for items that mean we may want to discard, such as a light jacket that we may be wearing, or extra storage for any other items we want to carry with us. This is the pack we carry.
You may decide to carry more or less, that is entirely up to you. This is the list of things we always carry. Usually, we carry more than just this, but this is the list of items always in our pack. What do you always carry on your hikes? Leave us a comment below.
My Boy Scout Unit Commissioner once told me “the best night’s sleep I ever got on a campout was in a hammock”. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I picked one up for our next campout. Since this was my first time sleeping in a hammock, at least not overnight; I probably didn’t sleep as well as I could have. My only regret is that I didn’t adhere to #5 below. If I had an underquilt or a camp pad, I would have been much warmer and therefore slept better. Besides that, I am hooked.
Hammocks are super easy to set up and if you get the right straps, you don’t even have to be able to tie any knots. They are also the ultimate in Leave No Trace, when hung properly you leave zero impact on the campsite. I now take my hammock on every campout just in case there’s an opportunity to use it.
We have compiled some tips and tricks to make your next hammock campout even more comfortable.
Hang your hammock with a good sag. Too many people try to string up their hammock tightly between two anchor points. Heck, I even used to. Stringing too tightly between anchors causes a cocoon effect and put pressure on your shoulders and back. Putting a good sag in your hammock lowers the center of gravity making it more stable and harder to fall out of. You want to have your hammock look like a smile. For the techies, a 30 degree angle at each end will be the most comfortable.
2. Lay on the diagonal. This is actually how hammocks were designed to work. Once you have your “good sag”, laying across the diagonal is very comfortable. If you start to feel some pressure behind your knees laying like this, use a small pillow under them and sleep like a baby!
3. Raise your feet slightly higher. Sometimes your body can slide to the middle of the hammock and be uncomfortable. Raising your feet 8″ – 10″ will keep your torso from sliding into the middle and be more comfortable.
4. Keep the bugs at bay. Some “jungle hammocks” come with a built in bug net. If yours doesn’t, it is an inexpensive addition to help keep the bugs outside where they should be.
5. Use a sleeping pad or under quilt. Sleeping pads aren’t just for sleeping on the ground comfortably. They also keep you warmer by insulating you from the cold ground. Many people think all you need to stay warm in a hammock is a sleeping bag. When you lay on the sleeping bag in your hammock, you compress the filling which is what helps insulate you. Sure, you will be warmer than if you had nothing, but a sleeping pad or under quilt will be much warmer.
6. Use a drip line. A simple drip line on your suspension system (see above) can help keep you dry. Water can seep down the suspension line and right onto you. Be sure to place this drip line under your tarp for the best effect. You can make a drip line with a small piece of para cord on the suspension.
7. Fold in the edge for a more comfortable chair. Sitting in a hammock is like sitting in a big comfy seat. If you don’t wan the circulation cut off at your knees, fold the edge in and sit on the nice flat area.
8. Check local regulations. There are some local areas that do not allow hammock use. This usually has to do with the potential damage to trees (See # 9).
9. Use webbing straps. Webbing straps are designed to evenly distribute the weight when anchored to a tree. Webbing straps won’t cut into a tree the same way rope will. These straps also make hanging your hammock a breeze. No knots to tie, just loop the webbing around a tree and hang!
10. Hang your floor mat. If you use a mat on the ground. Hang it up when not in use like when you’re out hiking or sitting around the campfire. There is less impact to the environment this way.
11. Be an advocate. Campers are great people. We certainly didn’t just magically come into all this camping knowledge, we were taught. Help others. Guide them, be friendly about it and people will usually accept the help. Share this site with them, we are happy to help others too!
12. Use a sleeping bag. When you’re hanging in your hammock and the breeze starts to blow, it can cool you off quickly. What I like to do is have a camp pad or underquilt in the hammock and use the sleeping bag as a comforter. I unzip my bag about 3/4 down and stick my feet inside and cover myself with the rest of the unzipped bag. This will help keep you warmer at night.
As fun as camping in a hammock is, there are some things to consider to stay safe.
Don’t hang your hammock over 3 feet off the ground to prevent dangerous falls.
Hanging over sharp objects or water is never a good idea.
Don’t stack hammocks (where multiple hammocks are stacked vertically).
Don’t keep food in your hammock, just like a tent.
Inspect your anchor points and look for dead limbs above or anything that can fall on you.
Whether you’re new to camping, or a seasoned camper; there always seems to be terms we have either never heard or are not as familiar with. We at Camp Gear Center have out together a camping glossary to help with some of the terms associated with camping and backpacking. If you think of a term that we missed, please comment below and we can add it.
3-Season tent – A tent recommended for use in summer, spring and fall.
4-Season tent – A tent designed to handle any weather conditions, including harsh winter weather.
A-frame – An older-style tent featuring a mid-support that runs the length of the structure in the shape of an “A”.
Altimeter – An instrument that measures elevation by using barometric (air) pressure.
Back country – The isolated and uninhabited sections of national park, public land or forest.
Backpack stove – Small lightweight stove that is easy to carry in a backpack. Most use either white gas or isobutane/propane gas.
Backpacking – Traveling with all of your belongings, including tents and sleeping bags, carried in a backpack.
Baffle – Fabric panels sewn to the inner and outer shell of a sleeping bag. Baffles keep the insulation in place. Down bags must be baffled. Most synthetic bags feature quilted insulation.
Bank(ing) a fire – To build a wall around a fire (or where fire is to be) out of rocks or stones, or to build the fire next to a rock or dirt wall such that it blocks the wind.
Base plate – The see-through plate of an orienting compass onto which the compass housing is mounted.
Bear bag – In bear country, campers must take measures to safeguard their food and cooking utensils. Food items are placed in a strong, waterproof bag (the bear bag), tied to a rope and suspended out of reach.
Bear Lockers – Metal lockers provided by a campsite to keep bears and other wildlife from eating campers’ foods.
Bearing – The reading of your compass in the direction you’re heading.
Bivouac – A tent designed to accommodate only one person.
Bivy sack – A small one-man tent or bag of sleeping bag proportions often used for emergency shelter.
Boxing the Needle – The process of lining up a compass’s needle with magnetic north.
Breathable – refers to the porosity of fabrics. Breathable materials are not waterproof.
Bushwhacking – Off-trail travel through brush where no cleared path exists and hikers have to force their way through the branches.
Cache – A placement of food and/or supplies along or near a trail or route of travel for future use.
Canopy – The inner wall of a double-walled tent. The canopy is breathable; the outer wall, or fly, is waterproof.
Catenaly cut – the natural curve formed by a rope that’s tightly strung between two trees. A tent which has a catenary cut rigs tighter (less sidewall sag) than one without catenary cut. Catenary cut is a feature of the best tents.
Cardinal points –The four main points of direction on a compass–North/360 degrees; East/90 degrees; South/180 degrees; and West/270 degrees.
Chuck Box – A box or sack for camping cookware. Keep the chuck box separate from the rest of supplies to minimize cleanup.
Cirque (French, from the Latin word circus) – An amphitheater-like valley formed by glacial erosion.
Citronella candles – Popular and natural insect repellent that keeps away mosquitoes.
Cliff – A high, steep face of rock; a precipice.
Day pack – Small backpack that holds enough gear for a one-day outing.
Deadman – A log or rock buried in the ground to provide a solid point for anchoring a tent in ground that is too soft for stakes.
Declination – The difference in degrees between magnetic north (the direction the magnetic needle on a compass points) and true or geographic north (the direction maps are printed towards).
Deep-lugged sole – A boot sole featuring deep ridges and grooves for maximum traction.
DEET – diethyl-meta-toluamide, the active ingredient in most insect repellents.
Dehydration – Excessive loss of body fluid that could result in headaches, fainting and more severe symptoms.
Denier -(den-year)- A weight measurement used to refer to the fineness of a yarn or thread used in some backpacking and camping equipment. The lower the denier, the more thin the thread. The higher the denier the more durable the fabric will be.
Diamond stone – a type of man-made sharpening stone which contains powdered diamonds. Diamond stones are lubricated with water (not cutting oil). They remove metal much faster than traditional oil stones.
Differential cut – The inner shell of a sleeping bag is cut smaller than the outer shell, to produce a Thermos bottle effect. The merits of this construction are still being argued by equipment freaks everywhere.
Dining fly – An overhead tarp (fly) used for protection from rain. Usually erected just before mealtimes, hence the descriptive name.
Dome – A tent shape where the poles create a dome by curving over each other (see picture above).
Double-wall construction – A style of tent architecture utilizing two walls–an inner wall, or canopy, made of breathable nylon, and an outer waterproof wall or fly.
Down – The soft, fluffy under layer of waterfowl plumage used as insulation in some sleeping bags and coats.
Draft tube – The insulated flap that covers the length of a sleeping bag zipper. Without a great draft tube, cold air would be sucked in and warm air forced out every time you moved. A down-filled tube that runs the length of a sleeping bag zipper – prevents cold air from filtering through the zipper teeth.
Dropped-point knife – The favored style for hunting knives – the point is centered (similar to a spear-point) on the blade. Dropped-point knives are ideal for skinning game animals but are not the most suitable style for camp knives.
Dry bag – A bag used to keep contents dry when the top is folded correctly.
Duck – Two or three small rocks piled one on top of the other to be used as a trail marker.
Duluth pack – A voluminous envelope style (usually, canvas) pack popular with canoeists.
Dutch Oven – A heavy metal pot with a cover used around camps to bake and prepare other delicious meals. Usually made out of cast iron. There is an art to good Dutch Oven cooking and some spend their lives perfecting their tasty dishes. Often a complete meal can be prepared in one Dutch Oven.
DWR – Acronym for Durable Water-Repellent finish, a treatment found on outerwear that forces water to bead much as wax does for a car.
Embers – The best thing to cook on if using a wood fire. When the flames have died down and the part-burnt wood glows orange or white, it is the most efficient heat to cook on.
Encapsulation technology – A special durable water-repellent finish (DWR) that wraps around each fabric fiber, as opposed to going on like a continuous coat of paint. Provides excellent water-repellency, doesn’t compromise breathability, is abrasion-proof, adds tear strength, and makes garments feel soft and supple. Used in some down and Polarguard 3D-insulated clothes.
Ensolite – A soft rubber material that makes wonderfully light yet, for the most part, comfortable sleeping mats for use under sleeping bags while backpacking or camping. Originally developed by NASA to protect pressure from damage.It has virtually 100% memory and is waterproof.
Escarpment – The steep face frequently presented by the abrupt termination of stratified rocks.
EVA (ethyl-vinyl-acetate) – Strongest, most resilient, and most expensive of the closed-cell foams. EVA makes an excellent trail mattress.
External frame pack – A backpack supported by a rigid frame on the outside of the pack.
Face – The side of a cliff, escarpment, or other mostly vertical rock structure. The side of a geological structure, as in west facing slope.
Fanny pack – A small zippered nylon pack that’s attached to a waist-belt.
Ferrule – The metal sleeve that’s attached to the pole sections of fiberglass tent poles. Ferrules form a joint between pole sections.
Filling power (of down) – Same as “loft”. It’s the thickness of a sleeping bag lying flat and fluffed. Generally speaking, the greater the “loft” of a sleeping bag, the warmer it will be.
Flash Flood – A sudden flood of water resulting from a cloudburst.
Flat-fell seam – Overlapping construction; the seam goes through four layers of material.
Floating dial compass – The compass needle is part of the numbered compass dial, which rotates as a unit. This allows the instrument to be read in the same plane as the eye of the user.
Floor area – The amount of usable floor space in a tent, measured in square feet.
Foam pad – A sleeping mattress made of either open-cell or closed-cell foam.
Foot – The rounded end of a sleeping bag, also called a foot box.
Footprint – The shape and square footage of a tent floor.
Frame pack – a pack with an exterior aluminum or fiber framework.
Free-standing tent – A type of tent that doesn’t require ropes or stakes to keep the tent standing (see dome tent).
Frostbite – A medical condition caused by extreme cold that could eventually result in amputation if left untreated.
Frost liner – A detachable inner “roof’ for a tent that absorbs moisture which might condense, freeze, and drop on sleeping occupants. Frost liners are made from cotton or cotton polyester fabric and are needed only in below freezing conditions.
Fuel – 1. larger wood that keeps the fire going. 2. gas for a stove or engine.
Fuel bottle – Traditionally refers to “Sigg” aluminum bottles, which are used for the storage of gasoline and kerosene.
Gaiter – A water-repellent, internal sleeve that can be tightened around boot and lower leg to keep out snow.
Gators – Nylon anklets (usually with side zippers) used by skiers and mountaineers. Gators prevent snow from getting in your boot tops, and they add extra warmth.
Gauntlet – A glove extending beyond the wrist for added warmth and protection.
Geodesic dome – A dome-shaped tent with a strong faceted framework of tubular aluminum. Geodesic domes are the Cadillac of domes!
Gear loft – An overhead shelf in a tent. Keeps small gear overhead, providing more floor space for bags. Good place to keep a flash light or other small items.
Giardia – A bacteria that contaminates water in the backcountry and can cause severe stomach cramps and other symptoms. More properly known as giardiasis, an infection of the lower intestines caused by ingesting the amoebic cyst, Giardia lamblia, in untreated water.
Giardiasis – A waterborne disease carried by the protozoan “Giardia.” Giardia is commonly carried by beaver. Incubation time is one to two weeks. The pathogen is very hardy.
Girth – The inside space, as measured around the sleeper’s waist area. Mummy bags have the smallest girth, and rectangular have the largest.
Gray water – Wastewater that’s created from bathing, cooking, laundry and other activities.
Grommet – Little round metal sewn-in rings found on corners of so-called post & grommet type tents – usually 2 or more per pole point/corner, on better tent models. These make for durable, fast set-ups, and easier adjustments when temps change fabric and pole lengths. Also found on generic tarps, and some custom tent footprints. Grommets can sometimes be plastic as well.
Ground stakes or pegs- Anchors that hold a tent to the ground.
Gusseted tongue (bellows) – A leather piece attached to both sides of the upper on a hiking boot, designed to keep out water and dirt.
Guy lines – A length of cord used to secure or reinforce the walls and rain fly of a tent.
Guy-out loops (also known as guy-out rings, guy points, storm rings, storm ties) – Extra connection points on tent, for cord/line runs to additional stakes in event of wind gusts – basic tents usually require customer purchase separate line and stakes to make use of these rings, which is strongly suggested you employ in event of weather changes.
Guy point – One of several points outside a tent where a line (a guy line) can be attached and then secured to a stake or other anchor in order to increase a tent’s structural integrity.
Haft – The handle of an axe.
Hammock – A method of camping where a nylon “bed” is suspended between two trees. Makes for minimal environmental impact and a great night’s sleep.
Haversack – A bag or pouch used by hikers to carry food, usually carried at the side by a shoulder strap.
Head gasket – A piece sewn around the hood of a sleeping bag to keep in warm air.
Heat stroke – When your body temperatures rises significantly from being exposed to the sun.
Hike – A long walk usually for exercise or pleasure.
Hip belt – The main support device on a backpack. Large padded belt that buckles around the waist and is fully adjustable. (makes carrying the pack much more comfortable)
Hollow-ground (knife) – The edge is ground to a concave bevel which produces a thin, razor edge and a stiff spine.
Hood closure – The tie cord and fastener which secures the hood of a sleeping bag around the sleeper’s face.
Horn – A high pyramidal peak with steep sides formed by the intersecting walls of three or more cirques.
Housing – The rotating part of a compass that holds the damping fluid, the magnetic needle and has degrees engraved around its edge from 1 to 360.
Hypothermia – A potentially lethal physical state caused by lowering of the body’s core temperature, due to exposure to cold wet weather.
I-pole tent – A tent with a single vertical pole at each end.
Imu – A shallow pit used for cooking.
Inselberg – Prominent steep-sided residual hills and mountains rising abruptly from plains. The residuals are generally bare and rocky, large and small, isolated and in hill and mountain groups, and they are surrounded by lowland surfaces of erosion that are generally true plains, as distinguished from peneplains.
Internal frame pack –A backpack supported by stays on the inside. The stays give the pack shape and make it more comfortable to carry than a traditional soft pack.
Iron ranger – An “iron ranger” is a fee collection box used at campgrounds that do not have full time attendants. Upon entrance to the campground, you deposit your nightly fee(s) in an envelope with your name and site number and drop this in the collection box. At sometime during the day, a park ranger will make rounds of the campgrounds and collect the fees. You will often see these in National Park and National Forest campgrounds.
Kerf – A cut made by an ax, saw, etc.
Kindling – Small, thin, dead wood (1″ around or less) used to start a fire.
Knife-edge – A very narrow ridge crest. In spots, the crest of a knife-edge is too angular to walk on, and travel requires scrambling over and around pinnacles, along ledges on the side of the ridge, or even straddling the ridge.
Layering – Wearing several thin layers of clothes, one over the other. Layering is the most efficient clothing system for cold weather.
Lean-to – A two or three-sided shelter with an over-hanging roof and one open side.
Leave No Trace – A set of outdoor ethics promoting outdoor conservation.
Lensatic compass – A compass which features a built-in magnifying lens for ease of reading directions. See above
Lexan® – A material used in water bottles and other camping gear that is extremely durable and can withstand a wide range of temperatures.
Lock-back knife – A folding knife that has an integral lock which “locks” the blade in place when it is open. Some modern lock-backs are really “side-locks” or “front-locks.” Lock-back knives do not have pressure springs like ordinary jack-knives, so they can be opened easily with one hand while wearing mittens.
Loft – The height and thickness of insulation in a sleeping bag. The thickness of a sleeping bag that’s laying flat and fluffed. Generally speaking, the higher the loft, the warmer the bag.
Low-impact camping – An ethic that treats nature with respect by leaving as little trace as possible (see Leave No Trace).
Lumbar pad – A support on a backpack to comfort heavy loads on the lower back.
Lyme Disease – An infectious disease usually spread through ticks.
Magnetic north – The geographical region towards which all magnetic needles point. This point is approximately 1,300 miles south of true north.
Map index – a specially gridded small-scale map which lists “maps in print,” how and where to get them, and their cost. A map index is available free from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canada Map Office. See text description.
Marquee – A large tent, often used as a dining or meeting tent.
Massif – A compact mountain group consisting of several summits.
Mesa – A tableland; a flat-topped mountain or other elevation bounded on at least one side by a steep cliff; a plateau terminating on one or more sides in a steep cliff. Seen in many areas of the southwest.
Millar-Mitts – fingerless gloves used by mountaineers for technical climbing. Millar-mitts are great for fishing, canoeing and general hiking.
Mocoa – a popular camp drink which consists of hot-chocolate mixed with coffee.
Modified dome – A dome tent that has been designed for specific elements, such as wind or snow.
Moleskin – brand name of soft-surfaced bandaging material used to protect blisters. The sticky side of Moleskin is placed over the unbroken blister; the cushioned surface absorbs the friction from socks and boot.
Monsoon – In the Southwest, a seasonal outbreak of localized severe thunderstorms that deposit large quantities of rain often resulting in flash floods, especially in canyon country where there are narrow slot canyons and little vegetation to help absorb the sudden rush of water.
Monument – A large pile of stones used to mark a trail or often found at the summit of a peak.
Mountain parka – A generic name for full zipper thigh-length parkas. Mountain parkas usually have lots of pockets. They’re traditionally constructed from 60/40 (60 percent nylon, 40 percent cotton) cloth, which is doubled for added warmth. The U.S. Army field jacket is a true mountain parka.
Mummy bag – A close fitting, shaped, hooded sleeping bag very efficient at conserving body heat.
Nalgene Bottle – A type of “plastic” bottle that holds up well under the harsh conditions of hiking and camping. Originally designed to store chemical reagents, the plastic resists taking on the smell of the liquid or ingredients it contains. A very popular type of water bottle, especially the wide-mouthed variety. They hold up for years.
No-see-um mesh – A tent mesh so fine that it keeps out the tiny biting bugs called no-see-ums.
Orienteering – Using a map and compass in the field to determine your route of travel.
Orienteering compass – A compass that has a built-in protractor which allows you to determine directions from a map without orienting the map to north. This is the most practical compass style for outdoor use.
Overlapping V-tube construction(sleeping bags) – A type of baffle construction in which down is secured into V-shaped tubes which overlap one another. Some very warm winter sleeping bags are built this way.
Pack basket – A basket pack that’s traditionally woven from splints of black ash. This original Indian made item is still going strong in the New England area and is available from L. L. Bean. Pack-baskets are ideal for berry picking, picnicking, canoe trips, and auto camping. They will protect all your breakables. Compared to fabric packs, they are quite inexpensive.
Packed size – The dimensions of a collapsed tent and its contents, in square inches.
Parka – A thigh-length shell garment with integral hood. Parkas may be lined or filled with down, polyester or other insulation for use in cold weather.
Pile – Aluxuriously soft fabric made from polyester. Pile absorbs little water and it dries quickly if it gets wet. Pile has almost replaced wool as the material for cold weather camping.
Plateau – A relatively elevated area of comparatively flat land which is commonly limited on at least one side by an abrupt descent to lower land. Sometimes called a table or tableland.
Poison Oak/Ivy – A poisonous shrub or plant that causes itchiness and rash when touched. Poison ivy pictured above. Remember the phrase “leaves of three, let it be”.
PolarGuard® 3D – A hollow-fiber, highly durable, polyester insulation used in sleeping bags and clothing that has a high warmth-to-weight ratio.
Pole sleeves – Fabric tunnels on the outside of a tent into which the tent poles are inserted.
Poly-bottle – short for polyethylene bottle.
Poncho – A rectangular, hooded rain garment. Ponchos provide good ventilation and can be worn over a hiking pack. They do not supply reliable protection from rain, but are great for an emergency.
Pothole – A hole generally deeper than wide, worn into the solid rock at falls and strong rapids by sand, gravel, and stones being spun around by the force of the current. In desert country a pothole often collects water during rains and can contain a variety of small freshwater creatures. After rain they can be an important water source for the local wild animals. Care should be taken around potholes to not contaminate or unnecessarily waste the precious water.
Primaloft® – A microfibrous polyester insulation so close to down in terms of structure, warmth, and feel that it’s also known as patented sythetic down. Primaloft is lightweight, durable, very compressible, and unlike down, highly water repellent.
Primitive campground – A place to camp without amenities, including bathrooms, showers and electricity.
Prime (as in “priming” a gasoline or kerosene stove) – Some stoves are usually primed by filling an integral “spirit cup” with gasoline or alcohol, then setting the fuel aflame.Stoves can be “over-primed.” If too much gasoline is forced into the spirit-cup, the unit may ignite into a ball of uncontrollable flame.
Priming – Allowing fuel to collect in the burner of a white-gas stove before ignition.
Prismatic compass – A compass with a mirror designed to allow a user to see both distant objects being sighted and the compass face at the same time.
Private campground – An area to camp that’s owned by a business.
Puncheon – A log bridge built over fragile terrain that is wet.
Punkies – Also called no-see-ums; a tiny insect called a midge, which bites severely.
Purifier – A drinking water system that removes contaminates and eliminates viruses with a combination of specialized filters.
Quallofil® – A synthetic material developed by Dupont for use in sleeping bags and parkas. Each filament has four longitudinal holes which trap air and add warmth. Quallofil® is one of the best synthetic insulators.
Quick-release knot – A knot which can be removed by a simple pull of the tail. The most common quick-release knot is the “bow” used for tying your shoes.
Quilted or Quilt Construction – A stitching style that runs through the shell and lining of a sleeping bag or garment to keep insulation from shifting. Quilting is lighter and less expensive than it’s more complex cousin, baffle construction. It is also less efficient because the stitching compresses the loft out of the fabrics and allows cold to move freely through the compressed area around the needle holes.
Rain fly – A tent covering that aids in keeping a tent dry and windproof.
Rating – The degree Fahrenheit to which a sleeping bag is constructed to sleep comfortably. i.e. -30 degrees, 0 degrees, +15 degrees.
Reef – A sedimentary rock aggregate, large or small, composed of the remains of colonial-type organisms that lived near or below the surface of water bodies, mainly marine, and developed relatively large vertical dimensions as compared with the proportions of adjacent sedimentary rock. In canyon country a “reef” is simply a nautical term carried over into geology to describe a barrier, such as Waterpocket Fold in Capital Reef National Park in Utah.
Reflector oven – An aluminum sheet-metal oven which bakes by means of reflected heat. Reflector ovens are hard to keep clean and they are very cumbersome. They require open flame for baking and cannot be used on stoves or over charcoal. They are very efficient if you have a nice bright fire.
Ridge – A relatively narrow elevation which is prominent on account of the steep angle at which it rises. The narrow, elongated crest of a hill or mountain; an elongated hill; a range of hills or mountains.
Ridge-vent – The triangular window at the ridge of A-frame tents.
Ring & Pin – On tents, a very easy-to-use corner assembly design where long pins (1 to 3 inch steel or aluminum) with metal rings attaching are permanently sewn to the exterior corners of the structure, and the pins are then inserted into the hollow ends of the tent poles. Fast, goof-proof, inexpensive, widely used, and suited to most 2-3 season general rec tent models; the higher line post & grommet corner system is main alternative, found on most 3+ season mountain grade tents.
Rip-stop nylon – A lightweight nylon fabric that has heavier threads sewn in at approximate one-quarter-inch intervals. Rip-stop is less likely to tear than taffeta but it has less resistance to abrasion. Rip-stop nylon is commonly used for outwear garments, and is distinguished by a fine pattern of boxes (barely noticeable) that are designed to keep fabric from tearing. Rip-stop is very lightweight material. It is water and wind resistant.
Rock Glacier – A glacier-like tongue of angular rock waste usually heading in cirques or other steep-walled amphitheaters and in many cases grading into true glaciers.
Rucksack – A type of knapsack or backpack, usually made of canvas with two shoulder straps.
Saddle – A low point on a ridge or crest line, generally a divide between the heads of streams flowing in opposite direction.
Scarp – An escarpment, cliff, or steep slope of some extent along the margin of a plateau, mesa, terrace, or bench.
Scree – Loose rock, typically fist size or smaller that accumulates at the base of a rock wall.
Seam-sealer – A special glue, available at all camping shops, used to waterproof the stitching on tents and rain gear.
Seam Sealing –Coating, waterproof of the sewn seam areas on tents, backpacks, and other combined outdoor fabrics, to decrease water entry. Treatments range from inexpensive water-based dauber bottles, to heavier brush-on polyurethane coatings, to very heavy technical grade near-plastic fillers.
Seam tape – A waterproof tape applied over all seams on a tent or other equipment meant to be totally water repellent.
Self-inflating air mattress – A camping pad to go under your sleeping bag that has foam inside and a valve on one of the corners. When the valve is opened, air is allowed to enter and can be trapped inside by closing the valve. Very insulative and comfortable to sleep on. They come in all sorts of thicknesses and sizes.
Self-supporting tent – Theoretically, a tent which needs no staking. However, all self-supporting tents must be staked or they’ll blow away in wind.
Semi-mummy bag – A sleeping bag with a barrel-shape and no hood. A good choice for those who feel confined by the mummy shape but want lighter weight and more warmth than that supplied by standard rectangular sleeping bags.
Sewn-through construction (same as “quilt” construction) – A stitching style that runs through the shell and lining of a sleeping bag or garment to keep insulation from shifting. Quilting is lighter and less expensive than it’s more complex cousin, baffle construction. It is also less efficient because the stitching compresses the loft out of the fabrics and allows cold to move freely through the compressed area around the needle holes.
Shell – The outermost material in a sleeping bag or outdoor clothing, consisting of a fabric used to meet a particular demand such as abrasion resistance, water repellency or suppleness.
Shock cord – An elastic cord running through tent poles to separation or loss of the poles, and to expedite set-up.
Shock corded poles – This means that a bungee cord runs through each pole assembly. This keeps the pole together so you don’t have to hunt for pieces. As the poles sections slip together the cord holds them together so they can be handled as a single pole.
Side canyon – In decreasing order of size, local usage is: canyon, fork, gulch.
Sigg fuel bottle – Traditionally refers to aluminum bottles, which are used for the storage of gasoline and kerosene.
Single-walled tent – A lightweight, single-fabric construction tent that is chemically treated for insulation and waterproofness but which may not be very breathable.
Sixty-forty parka – A parka made from fabric which consists of 60 percent nylon and 40 percent cotton. The term “60/40” is now generic; it defines any mountain style parka, regardless of the fabric composition. Mountain parkas of water-repellent 60/40 cloth, polyester/cotton blends, or waterproof Gore-Tex are light-weight, windproof and “breathe-able”, making them an excellent choice for use as the outer shell of your layered clothing system. In a downpour, 60/40 and polyester/cotton mountain parkas can be augmented with a lightweight, loose – fitting poncho of plastic or coated nylon, which can be worn to protect your pack as well as your body. Gore-Tex mountain parkas need no additional rainproof layer.
Shell(garments) – Refers to unlined garments, or the interior or exterior wall of a sleeping bag.
Side-wall baffle – A baffle that is opposite the zipper on a sleeping bag; it keeps the down from shifting along the length of the bag.
Siwash – To live off the land with a bare minimum of essentials. Most modern campers do not siwash!
Slickrock – Generally a smooth, weathered sandstone surface that becomes slippery due to the presence of sand grains. These can be dangerous to walk across.
Slot canyon – A deep, narrow, steep-walled canyon, most often cut through sandstone, and often with water running along its bottom. Sometimes referred to as narrows.
Smores – Simply a great camping treat to make for kids, big and small, around a campfire at night
Sou’wester – The traditional rain hat of sailors and commercial fishermen. The sou’wester was developed centuries ago and it is still the best of all foul weather hats. The best sou’westers have ear flaps, chin strap, and a flannel lining.
Space filler-cut – Where the inner and outer shells of a sleeping bag are cut the same size. This construction allows the inner liner and fill to better conform to the curves of your body than the Thermos bottle shape of the “differential cut.” The merits/demerits of space-filler versus differential cut are still being argued by sleeping bag manufacturers.
Space Blanket – Mylar-coated “blanket” used in survival kits. Space-blankets are waterproof and are very warm for their size and weight. Every camping shop has them. They are also called Mylar blanket, Aluminized blanket. The blanket measure 84″ X 54″ when spread open, they are the perfect for retaining warmth in any emergency. Easy to store with it’s compact design and light weight packaging. A must have item in your survival or emergency response kit. The blanket can serve different uses. It can deflect heat when used as a shelter from the sun. You can decrease heat inside your automobile by using the solar blanket to cover the roof and windows. Primary use is to reflect back your own body heat. It conserves 90% of body heat when wrapped around a person.
Sternum strap – A short nylon strap which connects the shoulder straps of a hiking pack. A properly adjusted sternum strap transfers some of the pack load to the chest.
Storm-flap – A panel of material which backs the zipper of a parka. This helps to keep the cold out and the warmth in.
Stuff sack – Traditionally, a nylon sack in which a sleeping bag is stored. The term now defines any nylon bag with drawstring closure.
Swiss Army knife – originally, the issue knife of the Swiss Army. Now, generic for any “Scout-style” multi-tool pocket knife.
Switchback – Climbing a mountain or hill with a zig-zag motion. This allows for a significantly easier ascent in many situations.
Table – A relatively elevated area of comparatively flat land which is commonly limited on at least one side by an abrupt descent to lower land.Also called a plateau.
Talus – The loose rock of all sizes that falls from a cliff and accumulates at the base. The distinction between scree and talus is generally that talus is large enough not to move underfoot.
Tank – Natural depressions in an impervious stratum, in which rain or snow water collects and is preserved the greater portion of the year. Also a natural or artificial pool or water hole in a wash. Seen often in the arid southwest.
Tarn – A small rock-rimmed lake in an ice-gouged basin on the floor of a cirque or in a glaciated valley.
Technical climbing – Mountain climbing requiring use of ropes and fixed belay anchors on either rock or ice. Also includes any sustained climbing where the arms are used to pull upward rather than being used solely for balance.
Tent – The main type of shelter for camping. Tents come in all shapes, sizes and sleeping capacities. Read more here.
Tent stake (or peg) – A piece of wood, metal or aluminum pointed at one end for driving into the ground to hold a rope supporting a tent. Why you need to stake your tent: for without the stakes your tent could quickly become a kite in the lightest of winds and destroy itself as it tumbles through the woods or across the sand dunes. Sometimes called tent pegs.
Tinder – small twigs, wood shavings, dry leaves or grass, dry needles, bark or dryer lint (ultra-fine dry material). This should start to burn immediately with a lighted match or spark from your magnesium fire starter.
Topographic map – A map showing the topographic features of a land surface generally by means of contour lines.
Trenching (also called “ditching”) – Digging a trench around a tent to carry away ground water which accumulates during a heavy rain. This form of guttering is illegal in all wilderness areas. Ground cloths and tent floors have eliminated the need to “trench” tents. Trenching goes against the principles of Leave No Trace.
Trailhead – The point at which a trail begins. In most parks and popular areas there is a parking lot or turn out for easy access.
Traverse – Horizontal travel across a mountainside or over a ridge. An ascending or descending traverse refers to a gradual elevation change while traveling across a much steeper slope.
Tread – A trail’s surface. Refers to the amount of traction there is for hiking.
Trekking (“to make one’s way arduously”) – A very difficult or lengthy hike. Or perhaps over unmarked or totally undeveloped terrain
Tumpline – A strap across the forehead and over the shoulders, used to carry loads on the back. Voyageurs carried hundreds of pounds of furs with only a tumpline. Today this feature is found only on traditional canvas duluth packs which are used for wilderness canoeing.
Twist-on-a-stick – Baking powder bread made by twisting dough on a stick and baking it over the fire.
Tunnel tent – A low profile tent that is long and rounded.
Ultralight tent – A tent designed for one or two people, weighing five pounds or less and designed to carry on or in a backpack.
UV degradation – A breaking down of material due to the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays. UV degradation can be a potential problem with tent flies exposed to the sun for extended periods.
Vestibule – A covered area outside of or connected to a tent, usually created by an extended rain-fly or a special attachment. Vestibules provide a place to store gear out of the weather
Volume – The amount of space in a backpack measured in cubic inches.
Wachita stone – A medium-hard mineral oil stone used for sharpening knives.
Wash – The wash of a stream is the sandy, rocky, gravely, boulder-strewn part of a river bottom. In the southwest a wash is usually the dry bed of an intermittent stream often at the bottom of a canyon. Also called a dry wash.
Waterproof – Impervious to water. Covered or treated with a material (as a solution of rubber) to prevent permeation by water.
Water-resistant vs. Waterproof
A garment that is water-resistant is “treated with a finish that is resistant but not impervious to penetration by water,” while a garment that is waterproof is “covered or treated with a material to prevent permeation by water.”
Water-repellent – Treated with a finish that is resistant but not impervious to penetration by water.
Water pocket – A bowl in rock that has been formed by the erosional action of falling or running water. Often times a collection point for rain and run off water, and thus a potential source of drinking water for wild animals and humans.
White-gas – A distillate of petroleum, also called petroleum naptha, commonly used in backpacking stoves.
Wilderness – A tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, essentially undisturbed by human activity, together with its naturally developed life community, generally an empty pathless area.
Wind shirt – Differs from a wind-parka in that the shirt is cut to waist length and does not have a hood. Wind pants are made of breathable fabric and are popular for winter camping.
White-print map – A provisional map that’s similar to a “blue-print.” White-prints are up-to-date maps which show the location of logging and mining roads and man made structures. These maps are designed for professional use; they are not listed in standard map indexes
Just like a vehicle, you have to maintain your tent if you want it to last. If you don’t take care of it, you will more than likely need a new one soon. Take care of it well, and it will last almost forever!
Cleaning your tent
Don’t try to go the easy route and throw your tent in the washing machine; this can damage your it. The agitator could actually tear your tent. The heat of the dryer can damage the material as well. The best way to clean your tent is by hand. Use a mild detergent and an non abrasive sponge or rag and gently scrub the soiled areas. This is especially important when your tent has been exposed to sand, silt, bird droppings; well you get the idea. You also want to avoid any harsh household cleaning products. Pre-soaking products, bleach, and spot removers; these products will damage the tent’s waterproof coating.
Cleaning Mildew & Mold
Hopefully, you’ll never have to do this. But even the most seasoned campers have to deal with mildew and mold. How do you know if it’s there? Typically, there is a musky smell and some discoloration. Use an enzymatic cleaner to stop the growth of mold & mildew. Your goal is to stop the growth because continued growth of mold and mildew will leave a permanent stain and smell. There are also the health ramifications of sleeping in a moldy tent. The gear cleaners that are available are either spot cleaners or submersive. Monitor the time your tent is submerged. Prolong exposure to these cleaners can also damage the waterproofing properties.
Cleaning Pine Sap
The Camp Gear Center headquarters is snuggled withing the largest ponderosa pine tree forest in the world. We know all about pine tree sap. If you get sap on your tent, it can be a hassle. Sap isn’t necessarily an end game. You can gently clean it with mineral spirits being careful not to scrub too hard or you can damage the waterproofing. Another option is to sprinkle some powder on the sap and simply move on. After time and more and more sap, your tent can look freckled, but that’s not really a big deal.
Zippers & Poles
Don’t neglect cleaning the zippers and poles. Simply brushing off the zippers and poles before storage will go a long way! Adding a dry lubricant formulated for outdoor gear will prolong the life of your zippers.
There is no more important rule than NEVER STORE A WET TENT. If you get nothing else from this article, please remember this. There is no such thing as too much drying time. A wet or damp tent will breed mold and mildew and can ruin the wall and roof materials. As soon as you get home from a trip, pitch your tent in a shady area or inside to let it air out. If you don’t have the space to pitch the tent, drape it over something to air out.
Store your tent loosely in cool dry place. The fabrics work best when they’re able to relax. Sure storing your tent in a stuff sack or the bag it came with is better for space savings, but a loosely stored tent will let be able to breathe and not be as stuffy.
Avoid storing your tent is really hot or damp places. A car trunk is not a good option as much as it sounds good to be “ready to camp at any moment” . The heat can damage the materials. Store your tent in an air tight bin or container if you live in a tropical or moist area.
You’ve decided you want to go camping this weekend and head out to do so. Once you’re out in the wilderness or at the campground, the most important thing about your campsite is where you’re going to sleep.
Having a flat ground to pitch your tent is crucial to a good night sleep. If your spot for your tent isn’t flat, you could find yourself completely off you sleeping pad and against the wall of your tent. Believe me, this is no fun, I’ve been there. You will also want to make sure your flat ground is free of debris. The smallest rock or pine cone in the wrong spot can completely wreck a night’s sleep (again, I have experience with this). Debris can also poke holes in the bottom of your tent. It is important to not only clear the debris from under your tent, but look for rocks that may be mostly buried and could also wreck your night; sometimes moving your tent a few inches or feet will fix this.
Having shade over your tent all day isn’t necessarily a must. In our minds, having shade in the morning is important. Look for a site for your tent that will be shaded in the morning, this will keep you from being woken up earlier than intended. Finding a flat spot with shade can be a bit of challenge in the desert (the shade, not the flat). If you’re camping in the desert, consider bringing your own shade. If you are bringing your own shade and you’re in the desert, you now have the option to move that shade from blocking the sun in the morning to blocking the sun in the afternoon and keeping your tent a little cooler.
What’s above you?
Not only is important to observe what’s underneath your tent, you should also look above you. Setting up your tent under a dead tree branch is just a bad idea. The thought may be “it’s up there, so it must be safe”, eventually, dead branches fall. Branches falling out of trees onto your tent is dangerous. The same thing goes for rocks. Pitching your tent at the base of a hill, or beneath a loose rock rock ledge could also be bad news.
What’s around you?
It is important to check your surroundings when setting up camp. You may not want to camp right next to the lake because of bugs. I actually camped next to a lake once and the croaking frogs sang a sweet lullaby! Downed or dead trees nearby, this could potentially be dangerous. Dead trees fall over; especially if it’s windy. Be sure to check your weather forecast. Not only can bad weather make a trip less pleasant, but if your tent is pitched in area of water run off, you may get flooded.
Lastly, please consider the impact your campsite has on the environment. Picking a spot that has clearly been camped in before has less of an environmental impact than forging ahead to find that pristine spot. Leave No Trace is a principle any responsible outdoors person should follow. Always try to leave your campsite cleaner than when you found it. For more information on Leave No Trace, click here.
Neighbors are a good thing. In fact ,there can be safety in numbers. Having a large group that is right next to or near your campsite can certainly make your experience less enjoyable. On one of our first outings with the kids, we were across from a group site. It was empty when we checked in and got all set up. At around 10:00 that night is when everyone arrived. The kids slept right through it, but my wife & I didn’t get much sleep that night. Luckily the camp hosts were able to move us to a different site. Don’t settle for the very first spot you find, but you also don’t have to hike miles and miles into the woods to find a good spot.
The number of people in your group and the amount of gear you have will dictate how much room or space you need in camp. Kitchen area and tents take up the majority of the space, but if you plan to throw the football or frisbee, you will need to account for that as well.